Category Archives: Musing

THANK YOU!

We are a day  out from the great and uniquely American holiday, Thanksgiving. We have traditionally gathered. These days it’s one daughter who does the family thing, being the place we all migrate to for limited conversations~ because who can discuss politics or just about anything~ complain about the fact that Christmas decorations are in the stores and  truly just enjoy the small ones!

Thanksgiving originated as a harvest festival. It  has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789, after Congress requested a proclamation by George Washington. Now it is the fourth Thursday of the month when we gather around a huge roasted bird with side dishes ranging from from dressing-or stuffing, if you prefer, cranberry sauce [jelled or full of whole cranberries] potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes! candied please. Yep. a very unique, great, stressed-filled one of a kind holiday. My favorite has always been cranberries with candied sweet potatoes coming in a very, very close second.

But no. What I want to talk about is ‘giving thanks’. Do you give thanks? ‘Thank you’ when someone holds the door for you? Or  ‘thank you’ when you are handed change? Or thank you when you are waved through a four-way stop? I do. It’s not a reflex. I mean it.

But do I get, ‘you’re welcome’ back? Usually, no. I don’t. What I get is ‘no problem.’ What exactly does that mean? It wasn’t a problem for you to hold the door? It wasn’t a problem for you to hand me my change? Lordy, it was your job! Maybe the person says ‘no problem’ when waving me through a four way stop.

The proper phrase is you are welcome. The no problem response seems sort of lost in translation. A bit casual. An off the cuff response. An over a shoulder comment that is more perfunctory than real.  It is more like I have not inconvenienced the person I thanked.  Again, for the most part it’s their job! 

Okay, a bit more cranky than I should. Time for the grateful list. T

  • Tom, while his health is good, he is facing challenges. I’m grateful that during the time he worked he made sure we were financially secure.
  • Meghan, Greg and, of course, Emmeline.
  • Bayley, Dan and, of course Mia.
    • Who would not be grateful for their children, their children marrying well and for their grand children. Seriously?  I mean. Look at them.

 

 

 

What else?

I am grateful daily for the peace, grace and prayers that help me make it through my day. 

 

Conferences

Just saw the new schedule for the 2018 NYC Midwinter Conference and I am impressed. Instead of the NYC conference being more about marketing, it is distinguishing itself as very craft and publishing related for both writers and illustrators. The choices are hard….getting a real understanding of writing history from Laurie Halse Anderson to understanding pacing with Phoebe Yeh….I mean Wow!

Sometimes I wonder if I really do get anything out of these programs, but I have to believe my writing is better, much better than it would be without it. I have learned, I have improved and not only in my writing but in the way to set my story apart in the query and in the synopsis.

I am torn between taking a session on nonfiction or the importance of pacing…oooh, so many choices. As regional advisor and the host of a conference it is hard to get to, no more than that,  it is hard to concentrate on the actual information being delivered by the presenter.  So for me  the LA conference has always been more important to me the writer.  Now the NYC program is full of very craft heavy and experienced well spoken presenters. YAY!  Good news!

This is a departure for SCBWI and one that while appreciated, the element of being able to meet with multiple agents and editors and hear their spiel has been invaluable, but, there is a note that is also worthy of SCBWI “you are invited to submit a query to a maximum of two editors, agents, or art directors whose masterclass workshops you have attended. Please be sure to target your submissions carefully according to the guidelines given to you by the workshop leader. We encourage you to use at least one of your workshop choices for the rare hands-on opportunity to work with our master authors and illustrators.”  Nice, so that too may have a hand in what I will sign up for. 

I have two completed novels, two WIPs and one, maybe two nonfiction to propose. The question is what to go to. I will probably change my mind a hundred times between reading the schedule and actually attending the conference.  Thank heavens for the time to be able to sift through and figure it out.

Maybe the issue is do I be brave and go out on a limb? Or do I look for more savvy on writing?  I’ve discovered that it is not in getting into the right programs but in feeling you’ve got the right information to go forward. So that’s what I will attempt to do for February, 2018.  Sigh, a long way away!

Distracted

There is much out there to be concerned about. The recent track of Irma as the hurricane invaded Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico, glanced past Cuba and made for the Florida Keys. At one point in time the trajectory was right up the middle of Florida with it’s sphere of rain, wind and havoc projected to cover the entire peninsula. Wow! We had all just witnessed Harvey who blew into Houston and decided to stay a while and dump on a low land that just happens to be important to our energy industry. Sigh!  And you have to say to yourself, wait! What? no one is talking about Jose who is sitting out there in the Atlantic. What about Jose?

Weather! No, it’s not the weather. I grew up in California. You knew you were in an earthquake when it hit. Up in Boston you knew you were in a major ice storm or blizzard–again–when it hit. Now you get 24/7 on the news channels. [Whose idea was it to give weather it’s own channel? So that we can constantly be alerted to all the natural disasters Mother Nature can dish out? Seriously?]  Like we can do anything about it. Well, yes, I concede. We can do something, we can be prepared. There would have been tremendous loss of life in Florida if there were no warnings and people just stayed.

I recently read Jacqueline Kelly’s The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. Yes, the voice was extraordinary, the story a powerful one of accepting society as it is and yet being brave enough to know that there are changes needed. Calpurnia stays focused on the fact that she has a brain and wants to use it. And as her grandfather accepts her into his study, she finds support for her goals. Nicely Done.

Interestingly, the story also talks obliquely about the Galveston Flood of 1900. A cousin comes to stay because her Galveston house is destroyed. A veterinarian comes to town with a story of surviving the flood. And through it all you realize that all their information is weeks if not months old. And while people are shocked and horrified at what occurred, that buffer of time also lessens the personal anxiety and fears.

No buffer today. Journalists and reporters are out there, battered by the winds, lol, warning others to be careful. The weather is right in our homes, it’s on our social media as people check-in to say they are safe. It is fascinating and horrifying at the same time. And also, in retrospect, amusing, the loss of power does not seem to impact the WiFi and the posting continues.

It’s like there is this invisible tether attaching you to the TV. It is a massive distraction. It is mesmerizing. It is addicting. How can you not watch? And yet, there are still very importing things going on in your own life. But still. The anxiety of the reporting~’it’s coming this way, no, it’s going here, landfall will be at…the winds are…’.  You feel almost trapped by the ongoing coverage and what, dear god, if you miss something?

You feel like you’ve run a marathon when it is over. Time to regroup. Time to settle your mind. Get back to the tasks that are important. Time to focus.

Thank goodness I have a massive rewrite to concern me. After my critique sessions at the recent SCBWI Carolinas conference I was adrift, not really wanting to spend time. Upset at breaking my own rules about critiques, questioning now when I should have questioned then.

But life is a series of ‘do-overs’. So here I am. Getting my anxiety out and on ‘paper’. Moving on.

Write On!

 

One Week Later

At this time last week I was looking at the conference schedule and anticipating the heartfelt and honest keynote of Lisa Williams Kline, the final presentation of the 25th anniversary. It is always both a joy and a sadness to come to the end. We start the weekend on Thursday with pick ups of the intensive faculty, dinner and the short sweet time to savor all the work that has gone into making this weekend happen. Not forgotten, but put aside, are the mistakes in scheduling, the long hours, the continual communication, the problems with registration…the meal is cooked, it is time to sit and eat.

With a sold out crowd and many on the wait list, there is a certain amount of satisfaction in opening the conference officially Saturday morning and this year, with the extraordinary voice of Gary Schmidt leading the charge for us to remember always the children, to cherish, to tell the truth, that there is not one truth but many because there is not one child in one situation but many children in different situations and we as writers and illustrators are there to serve their stories.

When we ask our presenters, especially the editors, agents, art directors, we ask for a craft presentation. How do you describe voice? What is pacing and how does it add suspense? What is the structure of a story? Our PAL authors have proposed and based on what we have in space, and track we choose. It is difficult and yet not.

I get that we disappoint some. There’s not enough for illustrators. There should be more on chapter books. Why do you do mainly categories and not genres? Like anyone else developing and delivering a conference for individuals in the children’s lit field, we are limited by what is presented to us and what time we have to schedule. Sometimes I think, if we could eliminate first pages and first impressions, then….but I think there would be a boycott of the conference.

It is definitely not~bye, farewell, all done! Now it is one week later. The conference paraphernalia is accounted for and put on the shelves. The finances are tallied and the long report required by the main office is almost complete. An event report is required on the regional team list and that is done. Certificates of those who won contests, but did not attend, have been mailed out, as well as checks for contracts met.  A email blast on the conference wrap up has been completed and sent and, yes, there are still questions and emails have, too, been answered. My house is cleaned after being neglected for some days and the laundry is done!  Still to come is the tallying of the evaluations and sending to the faculty.

While a part in the back of my brain rails against the time spent in followup, I do remind myself that this is a time to reflect on what we can do better. To look at all the successes that have come from these conferences this team has delivered for this region- nine now for me.

This was the 25th conference for SCBWI Carolinas, the first conference in 1972 run by Fran Davis and we value the traditions set by Fran and Earl when he joined her in jointly running SCBWI Carolinas.  And, we are not done. We have three webinars upcoming and 2018 to initiate.

Not a bad 25th celebratory year!

The Fourth

Today we celebrate our independence. Our country’s birthday. But it wasn’t. The declaration wasn’t even signed this day, I believe the truth is, it was read this day. It’s not like there was this nine month growing from seed to country and then Happy Birthday, you are a country.

This was a process, long, contentious, war-wearying, irrational while yet being the most brilliant, most rational, most elegant solution to government that anyone had ever seen and will likely see again. There is no country on this planet that has been granted the freedoms and the opportunities that are available here. A wonder of wonders for two hundred forty one years.

Today we are divided not just politically but culturally and emotionally because of that WeThe People document and the constitution which did not come into existence until later. My American history is a bit rusty. Not my favorite historical period, truth be told, I have always found it burdened with too many overtones of emotional response, this is my country. It is hard to separate my pride and glee that I was lucky enough to be born here, grow up here, work here, live here.  And, whenever I travel, now or in the past, I am always stuck by the fact that this is where I want to be. Living abroad was an interesting idea, but not one I would take seriously. That is just me.

In the seventies, during the Vietnam war, it was ‘love it or leave it,’ an extreme sentiment to be sure, and not one I agreed with. Because of, maybe in spite of this sentiment, it feels like we have spent the past forty years trying to be more like everyone else, Europe, especially. In my research in the colonial period of Africa, I find that Eurocentrism so strange. It is a view that Europeans are right, they are perfect and the rest of us, from the Americas to the East and the Mideast  to the Africans, are all just slightly less; undereducated, under civilized, and undergoverned. The change in political parties running the US government can be seen as a repudiation;  that many are not willing to abdicate their inalienable rights to a political elite in Washington. That we want to be less governed. We are not undereducated, but perhaps not well taught. Not undercivilized, but civilized differently.

I find it to be unconscionable that some may want to deny what are my inalienable rights for a supposed, in their discretion, a greater good. My rights are not subject to anyone else’s suppositions!  I am not a revolutionary, never could be. Well, that is wrong, I could be persuaded, not sure what I could do at this point, but….

Today, in honor  of all those who fought with word and deed, and those who fought  with gun and sword, who believed all those long years ago, that humans were and are able to think for themselves and to govern themselves with enlightenment, facility and courage, we owe ourselves and our children better than what we  have now.

This is about me, and you, my family, and yours. This is about a country that was founded on the basic truth of acceptance. Acceptance that this is a just and viable form for govenering a free people.

More than happy birthday, thank you.